Operation HAMLET is the Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which is commonly known by its French name, Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti, or the acronym MINUSTAH.
Operation HAMLET is the military component of a Canadian whole-of-government engagement with Haiti that also includes:
Task Force Port-au-Prince is the team deployed on Operation HAMLET. It comprises seven members in total, with five staff officers serving in senior appointments at MINUSTAH’s military headquarters. The Task Force Commander serves as Chief of Staff to the MINUSTAH Force Commander.
The initial rotation of Task Force Port-au-Prince consisted of two staff officers who deployed from Canada on 22 May 2004 to join MINUSTAH Headquarters at its stand-up. The task force grew to three in 2005, and to five by 2010. For a year after the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, Task Force Port-au-Prince was increased to 10 personnel, reverting to five during the summer of 2011.
In February 2004, a revolt against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide began in Gonaïves on the south shore of Haiti’s northern peninsula. Armed opposition quickly spread through the north and, by the end of the month, threatened Port-au-Prince, the capital. On 29 February 2004, Mr. Aristide left the country and Boniface Alexandre, president of the Supreme Court of Haiti, was sworn in as an interim President of Haiti. Mr. Alexandre immediately made an urgent appeal to the United Nations for help in restoring peace and security.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1529 of 29 February 2004 authorized the deployment in Haiti of a Multinational Interim Force, led by the United States, for 90 days, and declared that a U.N. stabilization force would follow to facilitate the peaceful implementation of a constitutional process.
MINUSTAH took the field under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1542 of 30 April 2004 with a mandate to:
Over the years, this mandate has been expanded to add:
At 16:53 local time on Tuesday, 12 January 2010, the southern peninsula of Haiti was convulsed by a massive earthquake with its epicentre near Port-au-Prince, followed by more than 50 severe aftershocks. The temblors destroyed buildings, roads and infrastructure throughout the region, but especially in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel. Government of Haiti estimates set the casualty toll at 316,000 lives lost, 300,000 people wounded, and 1 million left homeless. Of Haiti’s national population of about 9.7 million, almost 900,000 people lived in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs at the time of the earthquake.
The Government of Haiti appealed for help, and the international community immediately mounted an extensive long-term humanitarian operation in which the Canadian Armed Forces participated with a major joint task force deployed under Operation HESTIA.
The earthquake destroyed the MINUSTAH Headquarters building in Port-au-Prince, killing many members of the staff, including Hédi Annabi, the Chief of Mission, and Superintendent Paul Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, then acting as the mission’s Police Commissioner. In all, 102 MINUSTAH personnel perished.
On 19 January 2010, to support the multinational recovery, reconstruction and stability effort, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1908 to increase the military component of MINUSTAH from 6,940 to 8,940 all ranks — the size of an army corps — and its police contingent from 2,211 to 3,711 members. Five months later, Resolution 1927 (2010) increased the police component to 4,391 personnel to provide surge capacity and help the Haitian National Police meet the security challenges of the general and presidential elections scheduled for November 2010.
As of 31 May 2014, the total uniformed strength of MINUSTAH stands at 5,165 military personnel and 2,466 police. The mission also has 165 United Nations Volunteers and almost 1,600 international and local civilian employees.
The mission’s initial term of six months has been repeatedly extended. As well as Canada, the troop-contributing nations are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, the United States and Uruguay.
Since 1988, when a military coup ended the presidency of Leslie-François Manigat, Canada has been an active participant in international peace-support, stabilization and humanitarian operations in Haiti. During the same period, the Canadian Armed Forces have also planned four and launched three non-combatant evacuation operations related to unrest in Haiti.
From June to November 2013, a platoon of 34 personnel from the Canadian Army operated within a Brazilian battalion (BRABAT) to support the MINUSTAH mandate. Working with Brazilian personnel, the Canadian Armed Forces members assisted Haitian security and stability efforts.
The Canadian Armed Forces platoon was comprised of personnel from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Valcartier. The platoon completed language and peace-support training in Brazil prior to this one-time deployment.
Their primary task was to conduct patrols of their area of responsibility and create a visible military presence in Haitian communities. They also provided a link between the United Nations and the local population and were able to assist in improving living conditions for Haitians. The fact that the platoon spoke French helped them gain the trust of the local population.
As part of the growing relationship between Canada and Brazil, the partnership served to increase military-to-military cooperation. It also supported the Government of Canada’s objective to build a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere.
In March 2004, under Operation HALO, Task Force Haiti (comprising some 500 personnel, including a rifle company from the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, six CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopters and a Civil-Military Cooperation detachment) deployed to serve with the Multinational Interim Force. Canada was asked to extend its commitment through the transition to the U.N. stabilization mission; consequently, on 25 June 2004, the soldiers and airmen of Task Force Haiti put on the U.N. blue beret in a ceremonial parade in Port-au-Prince. “Cease ops” came on 31 July 2004, when the first contingents of MINUSTAH troops were in place, and the main body of Task Force Haiti was back in Canada by 3 August 2004. The last member of Task Force Haiti’s rear party redeployed on 17 August 2004.